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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Symbols


Ivanhoe and Richard

The friendship between the young Saxon lord and the Norman king represents the reconciliation of Saxons and Normans that must take place in order for England to unite and prosper. In Chapter 39 the two men enter a room at Coningsburgh and find Cedric sitting with a group of older Saxon lords; all their sons have "like Ivanhoe, broken down many of the barriers which separated ... the Norman victors from the vanquished Saxons." The old men, Scott says, look like "a band of ancient worshippers of Woden, recalled to life to mourn over the decay of their national glory." When Richard comes in, he and Cedric greet one another in Saxon. It is this cultural compromise that will enable England to endure and prosper.


As a dark-skinned Jewish beauty with almost mystical powers of healing, Rebecca embodies the fascination Jerusalem still holds for the returned Crusaders. Her beauty, learning, and goodness captivate Ivanhoe, but two things hold him back: On the one hand his heart is still with England and Rowena; on the other he identifies strongly as Christian. Sir Brian, however, no longer fits into English ways, and his years in the East have changed his cultural focus. He has Saracen attendants and speaks Arabic with them. Moreover, he has lost his Christian faith. In Rebecca he recognizes another way to be near Jerusalem and express his love of the exotic East.

Sherwood Forest

Robin Hood's world is a microcosm of a successful society in which everyone is decent and industrious. Although the men of the forest are called outlaws, theirs is a stable self-government whose citizens are selflessly devoted to its preservation. Locksley may be nothing more than a yeoman, but his abilities and the trust of his companions—not the accident of noble birth—make him a leader. Newcomers to the forest are judged according to their merits and on the same basis as established members of the "merry men." For instance when Gurth is captured by Locksley and his men while returning from Isaac's, even though he is carrying a substantial amount of money, the "robbers" do not rob him. Instead, they subject him to a series of tests that measure his level of honesty. It is decided that he is honest and hardworking like they are and therefore must be protected, not robbed. Later, he can call on Locksley's help like any other member of the band. This test of integrity is applied to Ivanhoe and to the Black Knight as well, and they are also accepted into the forest community as equals. It is not until the Black Knight reveals himself to be their king that the men of Sherwood, including their leader, Robin Hood, willingly accept another, higher leader.

Lincoln Green

Lincoln green refers to green cloth made in the city of Lincoln in England. By the time Scott was writing Ivanhoe, this green cloth was already associated with the legend of Robin Hood the outlaw, but Robin Hood himself was not yet associated with the fight for freedom from tyranny; that was Scott's doing, and through him Lincoln green became linked to this cause. Lincoln green is specifically mentioned by Scott only three times. The first two relate to Locksley's dress at the tournament at Ashby. Much later, in Chapter 33, Isaac offers the robber captain "one hundred yards of Lincoln green to make doublets to [his] men." The implication of this offer is that the color is already widely associated by characters in the novel with the outlaws-cum-freedom fighters. The color green is mentioned other times in references to the outlaws' clothing and is doubtless also Lincoln green.

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